Almost all institutions in Ethiopia, (to say nothing about outside ones) in one form or another have played a part, significant or otherwise, in the creation of gross and hitherto unseen monstrous social ills across the breadth and depth of the wider society. The market, the state and civil society (religious organizations, etc) all were and still are, to various extent, bona fide accomplices in the project of instilling self doubt, mediocrity and outright criminality within the populous. At the beginning and probably inadvertently, (also under pressure from donors) these destructive projects were given the green light by the state itself!
The socio-economic model that was forcefully pushed by donors was intent on destroying all and sundry that was put in place by previous regimes. On the economic front for instance, EPRDF had to let go of many things and only managed to hold its fort in the critical areas of land privatization, foreignization of banks and small businesses, the real estate business of speculation, etc. Nonetheless, as a result of rushed reform, (lax regulation) and chronic incapacity within the larger bureaucracy, the transition to the so-called ‘free market’economy ended up being not much more than an effective incubator of the now infamous ‘rent seeking’ genre, particularly within the domain of the elites (formal private sector, NGOs, etc.) The meticulously planned deposition of the country’s meager resources, somewhat ‘freely’ to the well connected, resulted in minting Ethiopia’s ascending oligarchs, (not all locals) and ushered the arrival of systemic and generalized decadence across the board!
Since almost all real wealth was/is acquired through ‘rent seeking’, the goons involved in the racketeering, (members of party/government and outsiders) became the prominent protagonists in the newly acquired culture of decadence. By implication, the general culture of the new ‘market economy’ was/is subsequently conceived (by the gullible beast—human mass) as being one of grabbing and nothing else! The motto; ‘Stealing your way from rags to riches’ became the guiding light, not only to the criminally inclined business community, but also within the larger community of civil society. Drinking the same water of ‘easy money’ led Ethiopia’s tiny skilled labor (physical and mental) to migrate from less paying hard/responsible work to more paying but easy/useless work. The common notions of; if one is paid well, then one must be good or if one is rich, then one must have earned it, were rendered factually fallacious in the currently existing Ethiopia. In short, mediocrity became synonymous with excellence and the unsuspecting youth swallowed the nonsense wholesale.
‘Easy money’ also came to civil society, mostly through foreign NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations.) Like filth attracting flies, unearned money attracted all and sundry to the flourishing business of the NGOs. As a result, useful activities that demanded disciplined work-life gave way to useless going-through-the-motion nonsenses. But to those vocationally engaged, the whole idiocy paid handsomely, including international travel. Staying in top hotels and sipping fancy cocktails sapped the integrity out of the local NGO operatives. All these luxuries had to be suffered so that the miserable poor will benefit from the trickle down alms extended by the charitable NGOs. Even on the part of donors, it is mostly guilt and tax deductions that have been driving the business of donations.What is donated to Africans pales by comparison to what is taken out of the continent on a continuous basis; payments of all sorts, corporate transfer pricing, non-renewable exports, etc all through the criminally devised unequal exchange regime. See Ngugi’s article next column.
Out of curiosity, we did our little survey in our kebele pub house and found out (not surprisingly) that many of our young graduates from the mill (universities) would prefer to work as petty officials in government offices; sub-cities, custom offices, the revenue service, etc, rather than venture out on their own. What many of our young aspiring bureaucrats want is simple and straight forward; they want to be in the lucrative business of extortion. If they can have it their way, any body contemplating service from them must be prepared to cough up serious money for facilitation. Amongst them some plan to graduate to a more hardcore criminal activities, for the right amount that is! Here is a sentiment expressed by one of the imbeciles. ‘If I go in for five years and still come out clean with five million, it will be a good deal! Thanks to our role models, (the criminally inclined oligarchs and their god-fathers within the state/party apparatus) the young delinquents think, if anything at least, extortion (by leveraging power) should still remain their birthrights that should be exercised without limit! Welcome to Ethiopia’s fast degenerating communitarian culture.
We should realize unearned income/wealth is the source of decay, be it at the level of the individual/group or organization/state. Our thesis can easily be verified by just looking around the various countries in Africa. The resource rich (oil, etc) are almost as poor as us and our oligarchs are as rich and decadent as theirs. See the articles on page 40. It seems Ethiopia’s ruling party at long last has realized that all the hoopla by sinister market operators is only a veil to hoodwink the state and the beast from asking pertinent questions about the ongoing scam, which now pervades all spheres of existence; economic, cultural, religious, etc. It is hoped the government/party will make a stop to this oligarchic charade/culture before it triggers mass uprisings as witnessed in North Africa and elsewhere. As the high priest of capitalism himself put it: “The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.” Adam Smith (1723-1790.) Good Day!